David Pacheco, vocalist and guitarist with Thee Commons, discovered cumbia back in the 1980s, when the style took Los Angeles by storm.
“Cumbia music originated from Colombia,” Pacheco explains, “from areas of less affluence.” The kind of places where, a little like food, you can find world’s best music.
Cumbia is rhythmic and danceable. As it spread around Latin America in the ’50s and ’60s, guitars replaced accordions, and the style melded with rock and surf music. This era also added heavy doses of swinging mid-century kitschy fun to the cumbia sound: a little Ventures, a little Juan Garcia Esquivel and a little Bogota street culture.
“We grew up listening to that music as kids,” Pacheco recalls, referring to his childhood with his brother Rene, who plays drums and percussion in Thee Commons. “That’s how we came about it.”
As can be heard on the band’s latest release, Paleta Sonora, or “sound palette,” Thee Commons put their own twist on tradition. Pacheco says his band’s latest release moves the band even further away from traditional cumbia.
“We started to incorporate as many different genres as possible,” Pacheco says, “from disco music to banghra music to cumbia to straight-up Beatle-ish rock’n’roll.”
Defying expectations is something Thee Commons are used to. Early on, Pacheco says, his band’s decision to play cumbia was met with hesitation. “We did it our own way,” he explains, recalling that friends said, “You need to work at it.”
Thee Commons adopted a punk rock attitude and ignored the naysayers, creating the unique sound they have today: a messy, overheated traffic jam of style and culture that could only come from East L.A.
Catch Thee Commons with excellent Eugene rockers Holler House 9:30 pm Friday, Nov. 3, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $10, 21-plus. — Will Kennedy